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10 presidential jets may be seized by foreign creditors over debts

Findings have revealed that the Presidential Air Fleet was indebted to several service providers for upgrades carried out on the 10 aircraft.

FG set to sell one of the jets in the presidential fleet (Punch)
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The PAF carters to the airlift of the President, the Vice-President, their immediate families and other top government officials.

Meanwhile, findings by Saturday Punch, revealed that PAF has failed to meet up its financial obligations to service providers for various upgrade works on the 10 aircraft in the fleet.

The periodic upgrades are mandatory to meet the required airworthiness, but, reports say some installations on the aircraft had again been postponed to 2023 due to paucity of fund.

This was made known by the PAF Commander, Air Vice Marshal Abubakar Abdullahi, during his budget defence presentation at the National Assembly.

Abdullahi lamented that only N1.5bn was allocated for the maintenance of the aircraft out of the proposed N4.5bn.

On assumption of office in 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari had promised to reduce the size of the fleet, but checks revealed that the Presidency has maintained 10 aircraft since then.

They are Boeing Business Jet (Boeing 737-800 or NAF 001), one Gulfstream G550, one Gulfstream V (Gulfstream 500), two Falcons 7X, one Hawker Siddeley 4000, two AgustaWestland AW139 helicopters and two AgustaWestland AW101 helicopters.

Despite the President's promise to cut the cost of governance with the fleet reduction, The Punch reported that Buhari had since 2016 to date allocated N81.80bn for the PAF maintenance and foreign trips.

Meanwhile, while addressing the House Committee on National Security and Intelligence during the budget defence session, Abdullahi explained that the age of the PAF aircraft was 11 years and in aviation, there is a proportion increase in maintenance cost in relation to the age of the aircraft.

The fleet commander, therefore, put the cost of maintaining each aircraft between $1.5m and $4.5m, adding that it's dependent on the level of maintenance due.

Abdullahi's word:It is pertinent for this honourable committee to note that for successive years, the fleet has been grossly underfunded, which has made it difficult to operate. From the fleet’s records, debts from preceding years are usually carried over into the following budget year and it is becoming a tradition.

“Permit me to also state that most of these debts are owed to service providers overseas. Considering that over 85 per cent of the fleet’s expenditure is forex transactions, the actual budget figure in dollar terms is further diminished.

The fleet is currently indebted to some of its service providers due to insufficient funding from budgetary allocations and the situation makes it bad for planning. As stated earlier, we currently have to have some mandatory upgrades done on our aircraft so as to meet airworthiness requirements.

Creditors may seize aircraft: While highlighting the importance of adequate funding allocation for the aircraft maintenance, the air vice marshal said this will prevent a situation whereby creditors may ground PFA aircraft at foreign airports.

Pointing out the upgrades that had been put on hold due to paucity of funds, Abdullahi said two of the fleet’s Falcon 7X aircraft with registration number 5N-FGU and 5N-FGV were due for upholstery refurbishment to give the 11-year-old planes a new look.

Abdullahi's word: “They are projected for refurbishment in their next maintenance due in December 2022 and July 2023, respectively, which will cost $2.5m each. Furthermore, the fleet’s personnel and aviation insurance premium for the year 2022 amounting to $5.1m is also due for renewal in February 2023. The fleet may not be able to fund these due to a shortfall in the budget.

“The consequences of underfunding the fleet could have adverse effects on safety operations. It may also lead to our nation being embarrassed in the international community either through seizure of the PAF aircraft at foreign airports or maintenance facilities. Moreover, other states may deny the PAF aircraft necessary over-flight permits for foreign missions.

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